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Dave Schatz

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, in November 2018. Photo by Kurt Erickson

JEFFERSON CITY — When Gov. Mike Parson called lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session on used vehicle taxes, Democrats said he also should have opened the door to legislation addressing gun violence.

But, while the governor and Republican leaders in the House and Senate kept the focus of the weeklong session on the tax issue, Democrats did convince them to start talking about what might be done to address a deadly year on the streets of St. Louis.

Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, told the Post-Dispatch on Friday that he has convened an eight-member working group to investigate whether to form a special committee on gun violence.

“I’ve asked for them to provide some input between now and the end of this month. Obviously we’re looking for solutions and trying to find the best way to get to that,” Schatz said.

Earlier, House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, said he has a group of GOP lawmakers working to craft legislation addressing gun violence that could be unveiled when the Legislature returns in January.

And, Parson, who is up for election in 2020, has met with St. Louis area leaders multiple times in recent weeks with an eye on announcing a crime-fighting plan.

Those may be small, tentative steps for Republicans who ardently defend the 2nd Amendment, but it is evidence that the violence has gotten their attention.

A total of 22 children have died in shootings in the St. Louis metropolitan area so far in 2019, compared to 13 at the same time last year.

It’s unclear what solutions Republicans might agree to consider in an election year.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said last week she wants Missouri lawmakers to allow the city to require permits for concealed weapons.

Another proposal would reverse a 2016 law allowing nonfelons to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

Republicans could instead focus on providing more money for law enforcement or a boost in job-training programs as a way to address problems in urban areas.

Schatz’s announcement that he’s inching closer to forming a special committee came after the Senate unanimously approved legislation restoring a sales-tax break for multivehicle trade-ins.

On a 29-0 vote, the Senate sent the proposal to the governor’s desk two days after it won approval in the House on a 126-21 vote.

Parson called lawmakers back to the Capitol after the Missouri Supreme Court in June ended the sales-tax break for multiple car trade-ins.

Previously, Missouri Department of Revenue officials allowed people to subtract the value of multiple trade-in vehicles against the cost of a replacement vehicle, then calculate the sales tax from the discounted price. The court ruled state law only allows taxpayers to count the value of one vehicle, trailer or boat as a credit against the sales tax on the replacement vehicle.

In a press conference Friday, Parson acknowledged that violence is a bigger issue than the sales tax change, but said the proposal will help people keep their tax dollars.

“Nobody is trying to compare this with violent crime,” Parson told reporters. “Let me be perfectly clear, so I’ll say it one more time: This does not compare to the violent crime in our state. It’s about doing the right thing.”

Democrats argued the law should be limited to small businesses and individuals so large corporations can’t skirt paying sales taxes by trading in large fleets of vehicles.

Clayton-based Enterprise Holdings is among the companies that could benefit from the change in law. Also supporting it were boat dealers, who said buyers should be able to combine the trade-in value of boats, motors and trailers since they are considered one unit.

Parson said the new law will allow for the sale of multiple vehicles to be used as a credit, in line with the Department of Revenue’s prior practice and what consumers have come to expect.

“Without this amendment, the law would limit Missourians in offsetting their tax liability, creating an unnecessary financial burden for taxpayers,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

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